Portugal is a country that truly excels when it comes to markets. Many of even the smallest towns and villages have their own daily markets, providing fresh local goods that are often higher in quality and lower in price than products available at supermarkets.
In this article, we run through the five best market towns in the Algarve. It was tough to choose just five, as most Algarve towns have a market that would be the envy of most of Europe.
With that in mind, we’ve focused on towns and cities that have a market that thrives daily, rather than just once or twice per week. By becoming a regular at any of these markets, Algarve residents can cut down on supermarket trips, be part of the beating heart of the community, and always eat the best local and seasonal food.
For the purposes of this guide, we travel along the Algarve from west to east.
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Portimão’s municipal market is as popular with local restauranteurs as it is with local residents. It’s one where it’s especially important to arrive early. Unsurprisingly for the region’s “sardine capital,” Portimão market is particularly strong on fresh fish.
Despite its proximity to the resort of Praia da Rocha, Portimão isn’t really a tourist town. As a result, Portimão’s market is relatively “business-like” and focused on local produce, fish and meat, rather than overpriced souvenirs and jars of honey.
Portimão itself is a busy working city. It’s location just off the key tourist trail makes it a good choice for relatively affordable property – especially slightly older apartments.
Loulé’s market is perhaps the most well-known in the Algarve. As such, it’s a popular day-trip destination. Some stalls are clearly aimed at tourists, with trinkets on sale alongside the morning’s catch of fish. This doesn’t mean that Loulé market is exclusively a visitor attraction. Plenty of locals visit as part of their daily routine.
The market is in an attractive and striking building that dates back to 1908. It’s one of the few markets in Portugal that opens every day of the week including Sunday. Like several Algarve markets it features shops on the inside walls, and pavement cafés and restaurants on the outside.
Loulé is a popular place with overseas residents. Located slightly inland, plenty of expats live in the surrounding countryside – minutes away from resorts like Vilamoura and Quinta do Lago, but far enough away for an authentic Portuguese lifestyle.
We cannot overlook Faro, the Algarve’s capital, in this list of Algarve market towns and cities. The city’s municipal market opens every day apart from Sunday, in a whitewashed building that’s also home to the local Loja de Cidadão (citizen shop) and a large supermarket. You can pick up fresh fish, wander around the supermarket and deal with any outstanding bureaucracy all in one place!
After being overlooked for a long time, Faro is becoming increasingly popular with foreign residents. With the international airport just ten minutes from the city centre, it’s an easy place to travel in and out of, and the city itself is attractive, laid back and cosmopolitan. While the historic old town delivers plenty of charm, there are also modern malls and conveniences on the outskirts.
Faro is also a base where it’s easy to move around the entirety of the Algarve and beyond, with lots of road routes, and trains and busses to everywhere.
Olhão is another place that’s steadily gaining more and more recognition. Currently undergoing lots of regeneration, Olhão retains its grit and “working town” feel, but now also provides modern housing and more high-end shops and restaurants.
The town is a busy fishing port and has been for generations. Unsurprisingly, it offers one of the region’s best fish markets. It’s open daily from 7am, and like Portimão peaks early in the morning, demonstrating its focus on locals rather than tourists. The market is on the waterfront, and boasts two buildings, one selling fish, and the other selling everything else.
Our recent article explores Olhão and discusses the main property options. It’s a place where bargains still exist, including tempting renovation projects in the town centre. For those with more to spend, plush new condominium homes are popping up all over the area.
Tavira’s municipal market is located at one end of the town near the picturesque saltpans. It’s perhaps one of the only places in the world where you may see a flamingo from the market car park!
The market is a hive of daily activity. The central area is split between fish and produce, with a few more touristy stores dotted around too. At one side there are several butcher’s shops and delis, and on the outside walls you find bakeries and low-cost restaurants.
Saturday is the big day for Tavira market. The daily stalls are often joined by a flea market outside, making for a great morning out. You’ll no doubt bump into local friends and other expats.
Tavira is a well-known destination for overseas residents, and arguably the Algarve’s most attractive small city. Property options abound, from rustic townhouses to modern developments surrounding the area.
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Tips for markets in Portugal
Becoming a regular at your local market is a sure-fire way to begin to integrate with local Portuguese culture. That said, it’s worth being aware of a few things first:
1. Don’t shop for fish on Mondays!
Locals know not to buy fish on a Monday. The fishermen rarely head out on a Sunday, so you’re almost certain to be looking at the same produce that was on sale on Saturday morning. Eat something else on a Monday evening!
2. Befriend the stallholders
Unfortunately, it’s not unheard of for prices to “fluctuate” in some Portuguese markets. A guaranteed way to risk paying more is coming across as a tourist. If you live in Portugal, don’t bark out what you want in English. Making the effort will pay dividends and help you find bargains
3. Learn the market schedule
Many markets in Portugal offer a standard range of stalls everyday, but also host larger regular events once or twice each week. Often this is a flea market in addition to the normal food market. Learn when to visit to see what else is on offer.
Whether or not you choose to live in one of these Algarve market towns, be sure to visit some of them. The Algarve’s finest food is not on the supermarket shelves – it’s often in one of these large and vibrant municipal buildings.